The Amazing Transparent Man, 1960. 5/10

Unusual blend of crime drama and science fiction. Not a bad premise: a escaped (actually kidnapped) con becomes a guinea pig for a old-world doctor’s radiation-fueled invisibility experiments. The pacing is pretty good. The main setting, a dilapidated Victorian somewhere in the sticks of the Southwest, adds a creepy dose of isolation.

Given the early Cold War’s obsession with anything atomic, it’s not hard to suspend disbelief as Dr. Ulof (Ivan Triesault) uses stolen radium to change an actual guinea pig, then Douglas Kennedy’s Faust into a ghost-like invisible state. What’s ludicrous is James Griffith’s Major as the psychopathic criminal mastermind. Ulof looks nutty enough to fill both roles. The Major, who’s about as military-looking as Anthony Perkins, just gets in the way. He’s sort of a desk-job criminal trying too hard to act tough.

At least Faust makes a fairly convincing criminal, although his swagger is a couple of pay-grades above his character. I assumed that the Major, whether he’s fantasizing about his invisible army, or just out for some quick scores, would focus on using Faust to rob banks. After all, he needs money to finance whatever he’s up to. Strangely, though, the robbery that occurs is Faust’s idea.

It might’ve been better to stay with the crime theme. In this low-budget territory, there clearly wouldn’t be enough guys on the payroll to show an actual ‘army,’ not to mention the tons of special effects necessary to have some kind of invisible battle scene.

The robbery is the best part of the movie. It’s well-edited, convincing, even funny. The bag of money floating towards the exit is a great bit. Another good special-effect shows Faust becoming visible, making what seemed an easy heist suddenly problematic. Invisibility isn’t a miracle; it’s contingent, even dangerous. There’s a bit of tragedy when Faust realizes that he will die from radiation.

This is a rare instance in 50s-60s sci-fi when the authorities don’t waste time denigrating and denying the problem. They don’t assume there’s a hoax, so they react appropriately. I wish the main characters were more sensible.

The main problem with The Amazing Transparent Man is awful acting. I can’t see what either Marguerite Chapman or the Julian character add to the movie. Chapman’s Laura is an airhead. She’ll go along with the last person she talked to, or the one yelling the loudest. Julian is even dumber, and really has nothing to do. Griffith’s role isn’t interesting enough for him to warrant a side-kick. On the other hand, Ulof’s daughter might’ve been given a bigger role.

She could’ve taken Laura’s place and still played Ulof’s daughter. As someone has said, why doesn’t Ulof make himself invisible and rescue his daughter? Then he does the same to her, he sabotages the equipment, and they both just split. The ending is pretty wild: the fight in the lab leads to the predictable explosion, with a mushroom cloud to top it off.

There’s some good stuff here, but The Amazing Transparent Man is just too dull between the bright spots. 5/10.

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